Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen: The Way of Chopsticks

Philadelphia Art Alliance

2012
$200,000

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Left to right: Song Dong, Song ErRui, and Yin Xiuzhen. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

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Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, Furniture, 2013, pieces of vintage furniture dating from the 1970s-1990s, salvaged from Beijing dwellings. Photo by Matthew Suib/Greenhouse Media, courtesy of the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

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Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, The Wall, 2013, salvaged window frames from demolished Beijing dwellings, mirrored glass. Photo by Matthew Suib/Greenhouse Media, courtesy of the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

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Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, Furniture, 2013, pieces of vintage furniture dating from the 1970s-1990s, salvaged from Beijing dwellings. Photo by Matthew Suib/Greenhouse Media, courtesy of the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

In 2009, the Philadelphia Art Alliance (PAA) refocused its contemporary art program on craft and design. This exhibition of new work by Beijing-based artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen provided evidence of how programmatic boundaries can spur—rather than curtail—imaginative thinking. Dong and Xiuzhen came of age in the rapidly changing China of the 1980s and were deeply influenced by the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. They are established artists who have exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art, and their sculpture is not typically associated with craft. Still, their artistic interests—including food, family, and domesticity—align favorably with craft concerns, and their installations use or reference common materials and ordinary household objects. For their project at the PAA's historic mansion on Rittenhouse Square, the husband and wife team brought to conclusion a 12-year series of works that mines the metaphoric potential of the most Chinese of domestic implements: chopsticks. In the series, each artist creates half of the work according to previously agreed-upon parameters but in complete isolation; neither artist knows what the other will do until the final sculptures are revealed. A new 10-channel video on the subject of their own family has also been produced. The exhibition was accompanied by a multi-author catalogue that included contributions by curator Sarah Archer, the artists, Philippe Verne, and others.